Toxic fluorescent lamps: Mercury issue with large energy saving potential

(META News Channel EEB, 6 Dec 2019) The most recent call by the UN to phase out mercury-added products by 2020 is poised to give lawmakers and a handful of powerful companies a headache. This week, Mauro Anastasio looks into the long-standing battle to ban fluorescent lamps in the EU.

Batteries, thermometers, fluorescent lamps, cosmetics and other products containing mercury have their days numbered, the UN Environment Programme announced on Friday.

Over 110 parties, including most EU countries, re-affirmed their commitment to phasing out mercury-added products by 2020. Parties agreed to review and possibly expand the list that contains products to be banned.

The commitment is part of the Minamata Convention, the world’s main initiative to protect human health and the environment from mercury, which was first announced in 2013. It is named after the bay in Japan, where in the mid-20th century mercury-tainted industrial wastewater poisoned thousands of people.

In Europe, the use of mercury is already banned or limited in many products. If viable alternatives exist, electrical products containing mercury should be phased out as agreed under the EU’s Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) directive.

Though mercury-added batteries and thermometers were taken off the market, one particular product has become the subject of a lengthy dispute between a handful of companies, campaigners and EU institutions.

This is the story of fluorescent lamps, which continue to be sold across Europe against the advice of market experts and environmentalists.

Today, energy saving alternatvies exist in the shape of LED replacement lamps.

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META News Channel EEB, 6 Dec 2019: Toxic fluorescent lamps: Mercury issue with large energy saving potential